'Ramayana' has often been adapted on the small screen as well as the big screen. Perhaps, for the first time, a film-maker has attempted to make a present-day version of the epic focusing on the relationship between Raavan and Vibhishan. They aren't brothers in this particular case, but they share a brotherly bond. The relationship goes kaput when they get into a conflict involving a lady. Their lives, thereafter, are not the same. Quite an interesting concept for a film. And an attention-grabbing title too.
First-time director Maqbool Khan borrows the principal characters from the epic, places them in present-day North India, but modifies the plot [giving the characters different names as well], thereby giving a completely novel twist to the tale, which sheds light on the tumultuous relationship shared by Raavan and Vibhishan. On paper, yes, the concept does catch your attention, but the true test lies in making the moviegoer stay glued to the goings-on for the next two hours. LANKA has some spellbinding moments, but they are few and far between to leave an indelible impression.
LANKA is an emotional journey of man [Arjan Bajwa] torn between the loyalty for his mentor Jaswant [Manoj Bajpayee] and the empathy he feels for Anju [Tia Bajpai], who is trapped and held captive by Jaswant. It's a journey of a man who would be termed a traitor by some and righteous by others. LANKA is about love, loyalty, betrayal and justice.
It's apparent that Maqbool understands his characters thoroughly and gives us an insight into their past to understand them better. But the film's foremost lapse is its meandering script and the gaping holes cannot be ignored. We are told that Tia and her parents have been trapped by Manoj and Manoj seeks sexual favors from Tia time and again. The first question that crosses your mind is, what actually led Tia's family to submit to Manoj's unforgivable demands? The subsequent portions would've made a lot of sense if this issue was addressed, although Tia fleetingly mentions about it, but offers no back story about how it all started.
Another point that cannot be ignored pertains to Arjan. If he felt so strongly about Tia, why doesn't he escape with her, thus setting her free from Manoj's clutches and atrocities? They decide to do so in the very end. Why not earlier? Also, the finale is not convincing at all. The entire drama, which leads to a violent culmination, looks farcical and is difficult to absorb. Besides, the conflict is resolved in the most clichÃ©d manner. Clearly, the writer chooses an unconventional premise, but doesn't squeeze it to the maximum. The slow pacing of the movie is another turn off.
Notwithstanding the shaky script, Maqbool Khan has handled a number of sequences with competency. A few dramatic moments, especially the tension-filled ones, have been handled skillfully. Note the sequence at the brothel. It's brilliant! Besides, Maqbool's well aware that given the genre of the film, there's not much scope for songs in the narrative and a couple of songs that are incorporated, have been done smartly. I'd like to make a mention of the camerawork, which captures the landscape as well as the edgy drama with dexterity.
LANKA belongs to Manoj Bajpayee, who delivers a commanding performance. He handles the toughest moments and carries the smart lines without any hiccups. Arjan doesn't get many lines to deliver, but he conveys through his eyes and expressions. He's earnest. Tia gets a few moments to shine. Yashpal Sharma is bankable. Yatin Karyekar leaves a mark. A capable actor like Manish Chaudhary is wasted this time. Shweta Salve sizzles in the item number.
On the whole, LANKA has some shining moments, but they are few and far between.